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Together we will get there, a message from #youthgotthis

15 October 2021
Another successful forum for #youthgotthis
The Matilda Centre once again partnered with #youthgotthis to hold a virtual public forum on Youth Mental Health. This year we heard more personal stories and the panel discussed many of the challenges that young people are facing today.

On Monday 11 October 2021, the University of Sydney's Matilda Centre hosted the second #youthgotthis Youth Mental Health Forum.

Watch the livestream

Watch the event in full on YouTube.

The #youthgotthis annual forum is a grassroots initiative led by Emily Cook, Dr Rebecca Overton and, Matilda Centre Director, Professor Maree Teesson. The forum provides a platform to share knowledge, research and lived experiences to improve the mental health of young people through education and empowerment.

At the beginning of the 2021 forum, Emily touched on what drove her to reach out to Dr Overton and Professor Teesson to start #youthgotthis.

"Last year I was driven to reach out and initiate this forum, because of the lived experience... through the eyes of being a mum and being an aunt," explains Emily.

Professor Teesson shared with the forum that "at the Matilda Centre we really believe that research gives hope, and it gives hope that we can all have a healthy future".

photo collage of #youthgotthis2021 panel

Panellists: Xavier Eales, Dr Rebecca Overton, Dr Ally Nicolopoulos, Kristen Douglas and Dr Emma Barrett.

Panellists Xavier Eales, Dr Overton, Dr Ally Nicolopoulos, Kristen Douglas and Dr Emma Barrett spoke about their personal experience, common mental health conditions they see in general practice, tips for self care and supporting friends, the impact of COVID-19 and re-engaging after lockdown.  

Further topics were discussed during the live Q&A which was once again facilitated by by accomplished journalist, television presenter and Mental Health Advocate, Jessica Rowe AM, with more than 200 questions submitted to the panel.

More stories of mental health

This year the NRL got behind supporting #youthgotthis and we were fortunate to hear from current players on some of the challenges they face, where they went to for help, and their tips for good mental health.

Hymel Hunt

Newcastle Knights

Brent Naden

Penrith Panthers

NRL wellbeing and education manager Paul Heptonstall seeking professional help is "seen as a strength, not weakness" within the NRL community. "About 15 percent of the playing group throughout a season will reach out to some professional."   

Thank you for your support

Together, we will get there.
Emily Cook

#youthgotthis co-founders - Emily, Rebecca and Maree - would like to thank everyone for their support and involvement. Emily summed this up in the forum when she quoted the African proverb "If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together," and with a message of hope she adds, "together, we will get there".

Special mention to our MC, panel and special guests:

  • Jessica Rowe AM, Accomplished journalist, television presenter and Mental Health Advocate
  • Xavier Eales, Youth mental health ambassador
  • Hymel Hunt, Newcastle Knights
  • Brent Naden, Penrith Panthers
  • Rebecca Overton, General Practitioner and #youthgotthis co-founder
  • Dr Ally Nicolopoulos, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Black Dog Institute
  • Kristen Douglas, National Manager, headspace Schools
  • Dr Emma Barrett, NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow & Psychologist, the Matilda Centre

Support services

For young people

For adults

  • Lifeline (24/7): lifeline.org.au or 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service (24/7): 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue: beyondblue.org.au
  • MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

Jessica Rowe

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the #youthgotthis Youth Mental Health Forum. Now I know I can see many of you joining us here this evening. We are so very excited to have so many of you with us here tonight for our second Youth Mental Health Forum. Now my name is Jessica Rowe. And it is my great pleasure to again, be your emcee for tonight. I learnt so much last year from our panel of experts. And I'm so looking forward to tonight because I know for me, and for all of you who are watching and listening, you are going to get so very much out of this evening. Now before we do begin, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and to culture. I'm currently on the land of the Gadigal and Birrabirragal people and I pay my respects to their elders past present and emerging. I further acknowledge the traditional owners of the country on which you are on and I pay respects to their elders past, present, and future.

Now, how are we all going? I know I'm from Sydney. So, to me, it was Freedom Day today. I know for many of you, that has not been the case. So, let's all give one another a big virtual hug. To begin this evening, I managed to get to the hairdresser. So, I'm a little excited by my short hair. So, I hope that those of you who were able to enjoy Freedom Day you were able to do something that was good for you that nurtured your sense of self and brought us some joy. Obviously, though, that's not the case for everyone. So, we're still with you very much.

So now, IT - it's not my strong point. Before we begin this evening, I had my youngest daughter here helping me. I've called her my Genius Bar for lockdown. She's been my technician, so she helped me but there's a few things that I need to let you know the organisers said to pass on to you. So apparently, you're all in 'listen only' mode so we can't see or hear you. So, I'm not going to be needing to say to you unmute yourself, because I know that that is a phrase that has come into being during this COVID time. I might need to say it to our panellists though, but we'll wait and see. Now you'll also see that there is a Q&A button at the bottom of your screen on your dashboard. If you'd like to submit a question. Now we have already got so many questions from so many of you. Obviously, we're not going to be able to get to each individual question. But we are going to do our very best to cover those topics that you have raised. As well, we are going to be recording tonight's session, so we can email you that link when it becomes available. Also, it's going to be on the Matilda Centre website, as well as their YouTube channel.

Now you know that we're going to be talking obviously, about mental health. And there's some pretty heavy-duty information there, we are going to be covering some tough topics, things that can be difficult to talk about. I've learned that it's often those difficult conversations that are the most important that we can have. But of course, we do not want anyone who was listening to us this evening to feel alone or unsupported. So please do reach out if you need some help. You'll see on the screen there. A number of phone numbers, of course there is Lifeline, 13 11 14 and a number of other support services there on the screen. Now we're also going to be putting those support services in the chat so you can access them throughout the forum. Now, we cannot provide crisis or counselling support during this event. But we do know though how important it is to get help when you do put your hand up and needed. And we have some incredible moderators who are here with us who will be doing their very best as well to answer any questions that you may have. And to point you into that right direction.

So, a little bit about me now, I do love a talk, but I'm going to try not talk too much because obviously this forum is not about me. It's about you. It's about our panellists, and it's about getting as much amazing information as we can to each and every one of you, but my name is Jessica Rowe. I'm a journalist, I've worked at pretty much all of the commercial networks. I'm also a podcaster - have a listen to my podcast. Also, I am a mental health advocate, having experienced mental illness in my life. It's also impacted on my family. So, I'm very passionate about talking and sharing our stories.

I'm also a proud crap housewife. I'm sure there are some proud crap housewives out there watching some parents. I did serve mince earlier this evening to my daughter's spaghetti bolognese, I mean, that's a winner. To me, mince is highly underrated. Now. I do digress. What else? I'm a TikToker as well, much to my teenage daughters’ embarrassment. Don't you think parents almost it's a little bit of our role to embarrass our children if we can? So that's a bit about me. Anyway, enough of that.

Let me introduce to you, our incredible panel, who are just phenomenal. First of all, we have Xavier Eales. Now Xavier is a Youth Mental Health ambassador, who at the age of 17, revealed his experience with depression to his peers in a speech to his entire school, which caught national attention. He is a most remarkable young man, and you're really going to want to listen to what he has to say this evening.

As well, we have Dr. Rebecca Overton, Rebecca is a GP in Sydney with a passion and an interest in mental health. She's also one of the co-founders of this event.

As well, Kristen Douglas. Now Kristen is rocking a really great hair style as well tonight. And she also did reveal to me she put on some eyeliner specially for all of you now. Some of you would know Kristen from of course, headspace. She's the national manager of the headspace schools, and she's just a font of knowledge and information. Kristen cannot wait to hear from you.

As well, Dr. Ally Nicolopoulos. Now Ally is another familiar face. She is a research fellow at the Black Dog Institute. She joined us last year, she has so much experience working with young people. She's at the moment working on the Under the Radar project, co-designing a new model of care that reduces suicidal distress.

As well, Dr. Emma Barrett, please give Mr. A special welcome. She is a researcher and a psychologist at the University of Sydney's Matilda Centre, and is the program lead in trauma and crime research at the Matilda Centre as well.

We have some special guests who are going to be joining us tonight. They've made some short, pre-recorded videos sharing their mental health stories and what helped them get through it. As I mentioned earlier, I'm a huge believer in sharing our stories. Often when we're in the midst of mental health experiences, you feel like you're the only one it's just your family. You are not alone in this. And this is what we're going to learn tonight from many of these stories that we're going to be hearing from some fabulous people. So, I'd like to thank the NRL and the players who have shared their stories which you will see this evening.

But before we get to our panellists, there's just two more people. I would like to welcome who along with Dr. Rebecca Overton, are co-founders of #youthgotthis. Firstly, a big welcome to Maree Teesson, who is the professor and the director at the University of Sydney's Matilda Centre. Welcome Marina. Well, tonight really is an important evening, isn't it?

Maree Teesson

It's a really important evening, Jess, and it's so exciting to be here and have so many people online talking with us tonight. It's an absolute honour to partner with #youthgotthis. And so, you know, on behalf of Matilda Centre at the University of Sydney, I just really want to thank everyone for joining us got this forum tonight. You know whether you here because of your own mental health struggles or here for a family member or friend, we're just here to listen and to share with us. We're so glad you've taken the time to join us tonight. Now at Matilda and, the Matilda Centre we really believe that research gives hope, and it gives hope that we can all have a healthy future Right now, boy, we need that hype, as many Australians are feeling that long term impact of being in the pandemic and all the lockdowns. So, we're really working towards that hope. So, I'm proud to partner with #youthgotthis for the, for this forum to start the conversation. And please enjoy the forum everyone and get in touch with the Matilda Centre through the post survey forms, if you too want to be part of the research story of hope. Thanks. Thanks so much, Jess, I'm really looking forward to listening to everyone.

Jessica Rowe

Oh, thank you so much, Maree. And gee, I love that notion of hope that is such an important word. And as you said, we need that now more than ever. I'd now like to welcome a really special woman, Emily Cook now, Emily Cook is the absolute lifeforce behind youth got this, it is something that is so close to her heart. Now Emily, tell us in a couple of words about why this matters so much to you.

Emily Cook

Thanks, Jess. And a good more a good morning, good evening, and a warm welcome to everyone here this evening. For our second #youthgotthis forum. Tonight, we're going to be taking a deep dive into Youth Mental Health. Last year, I was driven to reach out and initiate this forum because of a lived experience. And when you talk about a lived experience, I can only share the part of the story that is mine to tell. And that is through the eyes of being a mum and being an aunt. So as a mum, I'm so proud of the way my girls have handled everything that's been thrown to them over the last few years, the loss of a friend to suicide was a very difficult time. And it had a profound impact. And it led to a grief that words just cannot describe. I have watched these young girls rally around one another and support one another. And it's a strength that they've drawn from each other. And that has led to healing. If we can empower our young people, to have a mental health toolkit, to help themselves in times of challenge and to help each other, then that's what we're really aiming for tonight. So that's my experience as a mum has been watching my goals during COVID facing some really challenging times through the loss of a friend, and you know, losing milestones and all of the disruption that has come during these very unprecedented times.

As an aunt. I'm deeply committed to Youth Mental Health, as my family continues to support my niece on her journey to recovery. I truly believe with all of the love in my heart that she will get there. She's strong and courageous. And we love her dearly, and she will get there. I think what COVID has shown is that we all need one another. COVID has thrown us into this socially disrupted life and people have felt very isolated. We need one another to be kind. We need one another to listen without judgment, and we need one another to flourish and to thrive. Having said that, I would love to thank all of the panellists here tonight for their generosity of spirit in sharing their mental health expertise. I'd like to thank Xavier Eales our Youth Mental Health Ambassador as he's going to share his personal experiences. And a special thank you to Caitlin Ward. She is the creative talent behind the marketing campaign that has given us such huge visibility. And of course, a huge thank you to my co-founders Professor Maree Teesson and Dr. Rebecca Overton, your knowledge, your wisdom, and your belief in the vision has brought life to this forum.

I'd like to close with the words of a beautiful African proverb that captures the essence of our forum. "If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together." Together we will get there.

Jessica Rowe

Awe, we will Emily and what a beautiful sentiment because very much we will get there together, and I tell you what I love doing this morning giving my mum a hug. And don't we just miss that. So, I think it's so important to reach out and hug those that we love now. Let me just tell you now what we're going to be doing before we begin hearing from our panellists, we what's going to happen is that they're going to talk for five minutes or so. And then after each of them have contributed. I'm then going to open it up to the Q&A so there'll be plenty of questions and a chance to get some more from the panellists then but where I would like to begin is with Xavier Eales. Now, Xavier, as I've said is a remarkable young man. For those of you who haven't seen the speech He gave to his school. I urge you to have a look at it. He is brave. He's courageous. He's just he's just fabulous. I can't say enough good things about you, Xavier now. Tell, tell us tell people who perhaps didn't see that speech of yours about it.

Xavier Eales

Sure, thanks. Thanks, Jess. And look, I'm sure there's lots of you out there who haven't seen it, I should probably heed your advice, Jess, and put the whole 15-minute speech on TikTok. To get a few more viewers out there, I don't know if the platform and let me. But anyway, I, I left school in 2015. And I gave us I was I was lucky enough to be school captain at that school, and I decided that it was incumbent upon me, I felt an urge to be honest to reveal a part of my identity that I thought I had kept hidden from everybody, for as long as I could remember. And that was really weighing me down. And that was, that was the depression that I suffered from at the time, I've been seeing a psychiatrist for quite some time I was medicated for it. But it was, you know, a mask that I had to put on every day to go to school, that I felt like, you know what, I'd have a unique opportunity here to make a difference on someone who some young kids or listen to, and, and therefore I felt it was sort of a responsibility to just out as being something normal, which ironically, was the most cathartic thing ever. And it helped me a huge amount in dealing with it. And you know, helped make me the man that I am today.

Jessica Rowe

And I think that the point you make there about a mask, because for those of you who go through depression, as I have, it is often like you put a mask on, you feel like you have to pretend to everyone around you that you are okay. But I do think it takes real bravery to drop that mask. Where did you find that bravery from? And why did you think I want to talk about this, and not just to those closest to me, but to my school peer group?

Xavier Eales

The burden that it places on you to wear that mask is pretty overbearing, and it was probably heightened given the, you know, the, you look back at it now, it was a small profile, really, but the profile that I had at the school at the time, it really amplified it. And I do remember thinking, I remember thinking back when I was new seven a year eight, and you'd watch a school captain speak, you would really listen to what they said. And you would laugh, even if you didn't understand the jokes because the kid next to you in year 12 was laughing, you know, school kids. And I'm sure there's some on this call. And I'm sure there's a lot of parents on this call that know this all too well really do operate in a sort of herd mentality environment, which we often characterise as a bad thing. Often, it's a good thing. But nonetheless, it's certainly a dynamic. And I realised that as a result, I had a platform which I was never really going to have again. And thank God, I used it, I felt an urge to answer your question more directly. I felt an urge to, to take off that mask not only to ease the burden off myself, but also because I recognised that uniquely at that point in time, you've had the potential for the greatest impact.

Jessica Rowe

And what sort of response did you get? how did how did the boys who were listening to you? What did they say?

Xavier Eales

It was immensely positive. And I think that's one of the things that I've learned over this whole journey, is talking about your own experience is invariably a positive thing. And asking, you know, being an inquiring mind to other people's mental health journeys, is also invariably a positive thing. You know, to pivot slightly, but I think this is important. Asking someone, how are they really going? How's their, you know, you can ask us directly is, how's your mental health? Or you can ask it is, you know, sort of veiled, you know, are you okay? Or how are you going, really? And you can poke a little bit further than just the routine on 'I’m well, thanks'. Asking that question, and I do it every day, I really do. Asking that question, even in environments that you think are awkward, I asked it to, asked it to my boss today. And it is invariably gets a positive response. People do a doubletake, and they realise that you're really you really have their best interests at heart. They respect you more for it. And often you're in the privileged position of being able to hear them out for what is on their mind. And often that leads to a pathway where you can help them which is such an honour, right, and it's something that we should all be, we should all be looking for those opportunities in the day to day with everyone. Not sure if that answers,

Jessica Rowe

Of course it does. And another thing that I wonder about to is, what would you say to people? Because there might be some, some young fellows, especially listening, who have a sense of they feel 'Oh, no, I can't be vulnerable', or 'I have to be blokey and strong'. And what would you say to them?

Xavier Eales

I would say that. And I think that I think that society is moving on this point, but it's not quite there yet, which is that the strongest thing you can do is to talk, really, because that's the thing that you will struggle to do. And you know, pushing through barriers and doing things that are tough. That is the definition of being tough, right? Doing something you don't want to do. And something you don't want to do is to be honest and open about how it is that you're feeling now doesn't mean that you need to get up in front of the school and announce it to the world. That was that was a unique circumstance. What it does mean, and this is something I want to make a core message of what I talked about today, what it does mean is communication in all of its facets. So, communication with yourself, being open and honest with yourself and acknowledging when you're doing it tough. Because that's a big step to begin with. Communication with those you love and those who are closest to friends and family. And communication with professionals, for which there should be no shame at all, right?

Those, those three factors of communication are incredibly important, especially in a world where it's sort of stereotypes that this it's always stereotype that young people are, you know, coddled and have it easy. And I can see why those stereotypes exist. But the irony is that that doesn't really correlate with the mental health stats, right? I clearly don't have it that easy. That supposedly the most connected generation ever. And yet, they're also the most lonely generation, which is mind boggling, right? I think that I'm very bearish on social media, different talk show. But that no doubt has nothing to do with it. But nonetheless, I think that as a result, direct one-on-one, real human communication, unfortunately, has become even harder with this pandemic. But real one-on-one communication, become easier at home, by the way, is critical to making young boys and young girls as well feel like what is stoic is being open and honest, being stoic is not hiding something.

Jessica Rowe

And you're so right, because it's, it's something I mean, that's why I think you're so remarkable that you've, you've worked this out at the age you're at. It took me many, many years, it's sort of a grown up to actually realise the strength in vulnerability and actually asking for help. I just want to ask you one final question, again, for people who are listening, who you touched on a little earlier, but who may be worried about someone close to them, how to how to start that conversation and say, how are you?

Xavier Eales

So, I think, I think it's a few things. I think a lot of the time, just to listening to someone does a hell of a lot more than you probably think. And whilst it may lead to a lot of, you know, difficult conversations or conversations that you don't think are getting anywhere, really prodding them, and just listening, even if it doesn't feel like you're solving anything, even if it feels like you're making it worse, is often really positive.

So, starting the conversation doesn't have to be a science. I mean, anyone here can go on the Google website and find a list of questions, and they're great resources, don't get me wrong, great resources that, you know, questions like, you know, I've noticed that you've been flat recently, or questions like, you know, of that nature. And they're, they're great pathways into it. But to be honest, I think the best conversations are those that are truly organic, and really dedicating time to them. And then we spend so much less time these days having authentic one-on-one conversations with each other, and we spend a lot more time texting it. And you just can't have the same sort of conversation via iMessage. You just can't. Right?

So, I think, to answer your question directly, it's, it's taking an authentic interest in a day in what's going on in their life and what's going wrong in their life. Prodding doesn't even have to be explicitly about mental health. It'll lead there if it's meant to lead there. Don't you worry about that. I'm sure a lot of people on this call know what I'm talking about. It'll go there if it needs to be spoken about. Often just really understanding and adapting to the to the authentic natural conversation at hand is the best thing that you can do.

Jessica Rowe

Xavier thank you for having a conversation with us tonight. We will return to you soon for the Q&A. But let's just put I want to give you a big hug bag and clap my hands together for you because you are such a special young man Xavier. Thank you for sharing Your story,

Xavier Eales

No worries.

Jessica Rowe

Now, what we're going to do now is hear the story of another young man, let's take a listen to his story now.

Hymel Hunt

Hey guys, I'm Hymel from the Newcastle Knights, just want to talk about some of the challenges I faced during my career. Last year, during COVID, we obviously went into lockdown period and you know, couldn't see my family for about 10 months, as a very hard time for me because I'm a family man. And you know, struggling because I couldn't see my parents for a long period of time. Me personally, I just reached out to some of the boys have reached out some of the senior lads and ask for the help and you know, just to get me through, especially when the games are struggling and when I felt like had my support base, but I think that's massive. You know, if you can find a support base, would it be your partner or your family? I think that's the most important things that you reach out and portal

[Have you had to reach out to GP before? And is that mechanism there to support you?] Yes, I've actually seen a counsellor before just as happy mentally and, you know, I think sometimes you might have to do that at some stage of your life and if you don't need to, that's very fortunate for yourself. I think that's a smart option for some people definitely.

[Yeah, good. What about daily routine meditation, any of those sorts of things] I've been I've a routine every morning I wake up and do some breathing for about two or three minutes, say my prayer, but most of times I go out with the boys and I bet for a swim with the lads and I think that's some form of meditation, just listen to the waves and going for a swim and having no care in the world but that moment right there. Releasing all the bad energy in your day, and just getting on with your life.

Jessica Rowe

Oh, that was Hymel there. What a fabulous young fella. And he talks there about reaching out to his GP, because often going to GP is the first point of call when we need some help with our mental health. So, I'm now going to go to Dr. Rebecca Overton. Now, Rebecca, I know you've got some slides that you'd like to share with everyone who is attending the forum tonight. Tell me about some of the common mental health conditions that you do see in general practice.

Rebecca Overton

Thanks, Jess. Welcome, and thank you all so much for joining us. I really hope that you get a lot out of our forum tonight. Just to let you know, there will be some additional resources available on the Matilda Centre website, and in the email that you're going to receive after the webinar with lots of information for young people and for their parents and carers. And I would like to start by acknowledging that, as young people you will have been hugely impacted by COVID with home schooling or uni being online and disruptions to the HSE and to work and travel plans and not being able to gather with friends and you may have felt isolated and alone and adrift during the lockdowns, you may have worried about how COVID could impact your health, or the health of your relatives. And I know that many of you really will miss seeing family and friends face to face. What you're going through now might feel like the end of the world and you may be feeling a real sense of loss and grief for all the things that you've missed out on during COVID. Particularly if you're in your final year school. Pandemic aside, you may also be dealing with many of the issues that young people are dealing with such as social media pressures, or peer pressures or body image issues. Well, you may be experiencing online bullying, you may be exploring your sexuality and commencing intimate relationships, you may have concerns about the environment, you may be feeling academic pressures and pressures around what to do after school. And you may be supporting family or friends experiencing challenges with their mental health. Or you personally may be dealing with symptoms of conditions such as anxiety or depression. So, I think being young right now is really challenging, and you're dealing with so many huge issues. And I'm not going to sugar-coat it and pretend that after all these you'll be resilient and that you're going to have stories to tell your children because I think the last 18 months or so have been really, really hard. But please know that these difficult times won't last. And although there are lots of adjustments to make as we come out of lockdown, many others are feeling the same way. And there are lots of things that you can do to support and improve your mental health as we move forward, beyond COVID, and we're going to be discussing some of those things during the forum tonight. And in my work as a GP, I see a lot of young people who are distressed and struggling with mental health and mental health disorders are really common in young people and many mental health conditions start at a young age. So, I thought I'd briefly run through the symptoms of two common mental health disorders being anxiety and depression to help you understand a bit more about them. And so that you'll also have a better idea of how and when you can get some help. So, if you're feeling anxious you might be feeling very worried or afraid most of the time you might feel tense and on edge restless, trembly nervous, scared, panicky, irritable, agitated, you may feel like you're going to vomit, you might have a churning tummy or racing heartbeat, rapid breathing, you might feel sweaty and have pins and needles, you might feel lightheaded or dizzy and experience problems with the concentration or with sleeping. And it can escalate into a panic attack, which can feel absolutely terrifying. And if you're anxious, you may be thinking everything's gonna go wrong, and I can't focus on anything but my worries, and I can't calm myself down. If you are feeling depressed, you experience a low mood, and you may feel sad, miserable, tearful, and unhappy. And you may be thinking, everything's hopeless, what's the point, you get no enjoyment or interest in the things that you would normally get pleasure from. You may experience a poor concentration or lack of motivation, low self-confidence. And often people who are depressed withdraw from their family and friends, and they might spend more time in their bedroom. And if you're depressed, you might be thinking, life's so hard, everything's gonna go wrong. I'm no good, I feel worthless, and it's all my fault. So, it's really important to know when to get help. So, if you've been feeling depressed, or anxious, and you're not getting better, so if you've been feeling that way, for more than two weeks, it's concerning. Or if it's affecting your life, particularly relationships with family and friends, or in your ability to function, for example, depression, or anxiety is affecting your sleep patterns, or you have big changes in your energy levels or your appetite. You're finding it hard to get out of bed, you're not wanting to leave your bedroom, or see friends, or you're struggling to get to school, or work or get your school or uni work done, then it is time to get some help. Thanks, Jess,

Jessica Rowe

Oh Rebecca, thank you so much for those really practical, informative ways for people to think about symptoms of anxiety and depression. I mean, looking at those, I know, when I had the anxiety with my postnatal depression, I could pretty much tick all of those now. We're going to move now to Kristen Douglas, now Kristen, a lot of those sort of effects that Rebecca mentioned there about anxiety and depression, I would imagine, a fairly heightened due to COVID. And the impact on our young people is really quite intense. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Kristen Douglas

Thanks, Jess. And look, I really want to say thanks to Xavier for being, you know, so honest about his experience, I think it's important that we listen to people who've gone through this because, you know, it's easier for us to connect when they're telling the stories. So, look, I don't think anyone's untouched by what's happened in the last year or two. But we're all on a continuum, I think some of us have been really, really impacted. Some of us are somewhere in the middle. And you know, there's people in Australia just sort of cruising along, and maybe they're living in Tasmania, and WA they're slightly less affected than the rest of us. But somewhere on this continuum, you know, we might have this sense of feeling a bit anxious, feeling a bit wobbly, that's very normal. And the reason for many of us feeling that way is this disruption to routine. So, one of the very typical things that humans need is predictable environments, safe routines, things that make us feel connected, things, things that make us feel like we're sort of moving through the day, and it's quite stabilised. And when we have disruption, it starts to affect this. And when we have disruption for a long time, or on-and-off, on-and-off disruption. It really affects us and I, I think we probably haven't paid enough attention to the impact of disruption. We understand, you know, when there's a grief in the family or our school, we have to respond in certain ways when there's a trauma or an accident or something like that. But this prolonged or long-term disruption. I think it's really destabilised young people, destabilise families and routines, destabilise schools and I want to do a shout out to all the educators and what that means is we're feeling wobbly, more tired. I think fatigued is a really familiar word. There's lots of articles about languishing this word of kind of like just feeling a bit meh, and I'm neither good nor bad. I'm somewhere in the middle. I kind of don't have any words behind it. And I think all of that is perfectly normal. Anyone who tells you they're not affected in some way I would put that on your BS meter and call it a mile and I'm not allowed to swear I'm I guess; I would say that to crap. Anyone who's saying they're not affected is crap. And they're probably not being very honest with themselves, or not being very honest with other people. But can I also say, people have been ridiculously resilient. But young people have been so good. And this is the second year where we're missing out on that ritualised sort of, you know, year 10, year 12, formals, exams, feeling a bit disruptive. But you know, what, we're actually building this beautiful little resilient toolkit that we've got. When you're little your toolkit's much smaller, you've only got four or five strategies in there. When you're older, it's meant to be bigger. Some of us, it's bigger than others. But as we grow and develop, so what we should be doing is practicing things. Now, what goes in your toolkit are things that make us feel calm, connected, positive, happy, and safe. So those things, put them in your toolkit and test these out, right? Sometimes we go, that friend doesn't make me feel calm or happy, they're probably not part of your resilient toolkit, but walking is, or surfing or whatever it is that you put in. So, test strategies that work for you. Because we've all got different little toolkits and start to grow these things that make you feel calm and safe. Often, it's the really small things to, Jess, so getting to sleep, and setting good routines around sleeping, eating, showering, getting dressed, like it sounds weird, but these small things are really important to our psychological well-being and two out sense of feeling safe. The last two things I just want to say is around processing this experience. And some people might have heard of Brene Brown, and she's been really good in talking about, you have to acknowledge your experience before you can process it. So, kind of acknowledging you've been a bit impacted, acknowledging that's okay. And being able to process that the best way for processing anything, any experience, whether it's a breakup or problem in your family, fight, whatever, the best way to process is talking. So, this is what we use talking therapy in Australia, like counselling. So, talking, telling people how you're feeling and talking outwardly about what's going on for you is the best way to pick it up and move it out of your body. So that's just some tips around sort of restabilising us at the core, I think, because we're a bit unstable, potentially.

Jessica Rowe

And it's such important tips, Kristen, and you're such a wise woman, because what I love about those tips is that they're very doable. It's not, it's not difficult or can be difficult to talk, but it's as simple as talking getting those sort of different routines in place. I have to confess though, tonight, I do have my Jammie pants on under my fancy dress. Wearing so that's a comfort thing. But so thankfully, you know, we were just seeing from here up. So, Kristen, will we'll catch up with you in the Q&A. What we're going to do now is hear from another NRL player.

Brent Naden

[Hey Brent. This is Mental Health Awareness Week. What does mental health awareness mean to you and through your story as well?] Yeah, it's something I've started just passionate about. I have had my own problems back in the last year, especially being an Indigenous man, my culture and Indigenous people are like that we have a higher suicide rate than any other I guess culture. It's a hard pill to swallow, to be honest. But once you find you take that first step, and you talk to someone or you seek some help, then the rest is just comes naturally you start opening up you dig down deeper to what really would have affected you in life and not some things, you might just brush off, you look back at and like you talk to other some professional or someone deep you really start to pinpoint what really has affected you when you were younger to now.

[What's your mental health journey? What are the things and things that helped you in your experiences?] Probably, like rehab, down at South Pacific Private there, that actually helped to, I actually found that few workshops in there as well. You find your triggers, and you find ways to do the triggers and to avoid your triggers. So, I found for me, my brain is always constantly going and running 24/7, always the things on the brain. I find that if I sit down with my partner and write 3 good things and 3 bad things and talk about with her, then I feel better about it. I'm not bottling it up inside me and then later coming out I don't know how to deal with it. So, try and keep on top of it as best I can.

You know you get in your head and you think, there’s no one to help you. There's no one. No one knows my problems. But you'll be surprised how many people know, how, do you know what you're going through, have been through them themselves and have some really good advice for you so please definitely ask a lot when take that first step of finding someone to talk to about it because you might have asked a friend to say look this was going on. But then that friend might suggest you to a therapist, just taking that first step. That's a pretty massive, it's hard, it's gonna be hard, hard. But when you take that first step you wish you'd done sooner, trust me.

Jessica Rowe

And there's Brent there talking about the importance of talking, as we just heard from Kristen, that it begins with a conversation. He talks with his wife, he talks with his friend, he got the help that he needed, and there he is able to share his story with us. So that's very much what tonight is about talking, sharing, and learning. Now we're going to go to another one of our panellists, Dr. Ally now, Ally, this is something that a lot of young people think about, and also parents to that, how can we support friends who are experiencing poor mental health, thoughts of suicide and also self-harming? What can we do?

Ally Nicolopoulos

Thanks, Jess. Yeah, and just before I answer your question, I just want to let all the young people that are watching know that I'm here tonight talking to you from a place of knowing how rough it is to be young person experiencing mental health challenges, all the way through my childhood and adolescent with adolescence, which wasn't so long ago, I lived with undiagnosed depression and anxiety. And I've also experienced pretty intense suicidality throughout my life. So, before it appears that I'm talking at you, I just want to let you guys know, I'm actually talking with you. So, in relation to this question that you've asked us, I really want to drive home that you don't have to have all the answers. You don't have to feel like you're responsible, and you don't have to step into the role of psychologist. Many young people that I've worked with over the years have been really worried about saying the wrong thing, or not knowing what to do or say to someone who's struggling, I'll let you in on a sacred, it's not just young people, adults can also find this confronting and super tough to navigate. Because it can be a really, really scary thing.

I think an important thing to remember in these situations is just to be yourself, it goes back to that connection thing that Xavier was talking about, I resonated so much with that, be human, don't become fixated on saying the right thing at the right time. Because actually, this can drive up so much anxiety, and In us about doing it right, we can find ourselves not doing it at all, not having the conversation. And that's not what we want. We want to connect with someone we're concerned about. As human beings, we're wired for connection. And if you think about it, if your experience feelings of loneliness, or isolation, or you're feeling just completely misunderstood, you're essentially longing to feel some sort of connection. And sometimes, sometimes that's just knowing that someone's there. Sometimes it's also a bit more, I'm actually going to share with you a really cool acronym that some of the boys and girls in year 10, came up with on a suicide prevention trial I was working on a few years ago. And this acronym really nicely sums up what to remember is important in these situations, in three simple easy to remember steps. So, the acronym is ACT with A standing for acknowledge C standing for care and T standing T standing for talk to someone. And I'm going to kind of explain what that means a little bit. And I am talking to young people, for parents and educators and anyone else that's on this forum, I want you to kind of this, this, this is for you as well. But I am talking to the young people in terms of how you can talk to your mate. So, in terms of 'acknowledge' what we, this can mean two things. So, if this is something that you've not yet spoken about with your friend, just acknowledge that you've noticed signs of behaviour change in them, or you notice something's up and tell them that you're worried about them. Or if they have disclosed to you that they're not feeling great. Or, that that mental health has taken a turn, acknowledge how huge a step this must be for them to tell you, and thank them for trusting you and having the courage to share. Now we move to 'care'. So again, as Xavier mentioned, it's simply letting a friend know you care can make such a big difference. Like I said before, these feelings can be so isolating and leave you feeling so alone. So just to know that someone is there, and cares can go a really long way. And if you're concerned that they need help that you cannot provide, remember, you're not responsible for fixing the situation and you're not expected to. Encourage them to seek further care and support externally. So, that could either be a health professional or an adult that they trust. You can offer to go with them or even help them to book an appointment. If they refuse and you're still worried, this is where we go to 'talk’. And 'talk' - again, I came up with this, this came up with year 10 kids. So, it's talking to a trusted adult. And I know the young people on this call are going to cringe at the very thought of that. But I just want to give you an example of why this is important. So, say your 15/16/17-year-old bunch of friends, someone's mum goes away for the weekend, and you will decide to have a few drinks. You're not meant to, but your teenagers and you're having a few drinks. It's two o'clock in the morning and one of your mates has had a few too many drinks, falls down the stairs, shatters their head and is unconscious on the floor. You have two choices, you either ring mum or you don't ring mum. And you can see that your friend is an extreme in an extremely unsafe position. And you've made this pact before that mums will never find out that we're here drinking, but your friend is unsafe, and your friend needs care. And that is no different to your friend coming to you and saying that they're not feeling great. If you think they're unsafe, then the best thing that you can do, irrespective of what you think might be right that time, you can go into go and speak to somebody that might be able to help outside of what you think is right for that moment. Um, telling you, a trusted adult is particularly important when talking about suicide. So, if a friend discloses to you that they are thinking about ending their life, particularly if they stopped to talk to you about having a plan to do so it's imperative that you take this really seriously. Still do all of the above, have the conversation offer to accompany them to get support. And if they still refuse, or if you're still concerned, confide in a trusted adult. And you can ask your friend who an adult is in their life that they trust, you don't have to go behind their back. It could be mum, it could be a sports coach, could be a teacher, could be an uncle. If they don't name someone, though, and you're concerned for their safety. Identify an adult that you trust to share this information with. Someone speaking to you about suicidal thoughts is always a really serious thing. And while I know it's scary, and that you might be afraid to take action or afraid of being wrong, in my experience, it's better to have taken action and maybe be wrong than to lose a friend. One last thing I just want to touch on Jess, I just want to say in reference to some conversations that I've had over the years with a fair few young people is about how taxing and emotionally draining it can be to not know how to help or what to say or what to do when a friend is struggling, especially when it might be a friend who is experiencing mental ill health or suicidality as an ongoing thing. So, you've all heard the phrase, you can't pour from an empty copy it is 100% true, it's really important to protect yourself in these situations, remove any expectation of yourself to fix your friend or change what they're going through. And try and really come up with strategies that work for you both. So, I'm going to tell you one that I think can be really helpful. And that's just when a friend is in a pretty good place. So, things just seem really normal. You can have your normal discussions, do your normal everyday things. Ask them exactly what it is that they might need from you in those times when they're not feeling great. Could be meeting them at the beach for a walk, bringing them their favourite doughnut and sitting and having a chat, even if it's a chat about the doughnut, texting them instead of calling them because they want to talk but don't feel comfortable voicing their words. Once you know what these things are, that your friend needs, when they're not feeling great, come up with a safety word or a safety sign or safety emoji that they can text you or say to you, when they started to notice that things might be getting a little bit too much for them. I mean, just I as an adult still struggle to reach out when I'm feeling down. I can't imagine how hard that must be for young people to do in the same situation. But seriously, just having something to go to even if it's just a simple word, without having to try and put together the words to explain exactly how you're feeling in that moment, can be incredibly helpful and can give you the best insight into what you can do in that very much in that very moment to help your mate. So, like I said, parents and carers, it's also a really great strategy that you can use with the kids. If it feels like it's something that might be helpful for you.

Jessica Rowe

Ally that is so helpful is such good practical advice. Thank you and, and I think to the point you make about how incredible our young people are, because as a grown up, it's hard to reach out. And I think what our young people are doing is just phenomenal. It really is, as what you are doing is phenomenal. So, we'll talk with you soon. Thank you so very much. I'm now going to go to Dr. Emma Barrett. And what I'd like to I suppose cover with you, Emma is a lot of us are feeling anxious about getting back into it. But I know for many young people, it's the concern of going back to school anxieties about being back in that environment. What sort of advice do you have? Or how can we support young people getting back out into the wider world after this lockdown?

Emma Barrett

Yeah, thank you, Jess, and I think, thank you panel. You've already answered a lot of that question, I think and provided some really helpful tips. So, I think maybe just reiterating some of the important points that people have already made. Yes, to your point, Jess. can be a lot of anxiety at this time, a lot of worry, a lot of nervousness can also be combined with a lot of excitement and a lot of relief about returning to some form of normality. But I think all those range of emotions and having all those and not surprising given what we've been through and what we're currently facing, and when I think COVID and lockdowns could be described as traumatic and, and whether it be the threat of falling ill or having loved ones get very ill, and also locked down and the harsh restrictions that we've had to be under. But I think going through experiences like that, too, can significantly change the thoughts of ourselves and others and the world around us, as everyone's mentioned already. And I think for that reason, we can't expect that by simply switching off the restrictions that we can also switch off those fears and those worries at the same time. So, we will take some time to adjust. And we also know though, for young people who have experienced other traumas that this could have been and is likely to have been an extra difficult time that that's exacerbated or increase those thoughts and feelings. And so, for some, they may cope by drinking alcohol using other drugs, excessive screen time. So, these behaviours that they use to cope may be helpful to them in the short term, but then we know, in the longer term, they can develop them to quite harmful or destructive behaviours. So, in terms of some tips of what we could do to help I had thought of a couple or thought of three, actually, but I think it's reiterating what others have already suggested. So certainly, acknowledging and accepting that there's going to be a whole range of emotions and, and the way that we know how our young people are feeling is by asking them, and also not dismissing any feelings that they might have about being worried or nervous or even angry. And saying things like, it's okay to feel that way. And it makes sense that you feel that way in the situation. And I think encouraging those positive coping strategies to strategies that are relevant to the young person, so them coming up with ideas, whether it be like Kristen said, surfing, reading a book, doing artwork, going for a jog, whatever it might be, but certainly strategies that help them when they're feeling overwhelmed or distressed at the time. And for those young people needing a bit of extra support, reaching out to those services that we mentioned at the beginning, and that are attached to this panel. And I think the third could be to help young people help others, so encourage young people to be part of the solution. We know from a lot of research that these difficult times can also be associated with many positive aspects as well in young people a lot of growth, I think in some areas, so they might be experiencing an increased appreciation for their life or relationships with others, an increased sense of compassion or a desire to help others. So, if that is the case, I think helping young people find opportunities to volunteer or to reach out to others can be really beneficial at this time.

Jessica Rowe

Such good words and I think to looking for those silver linings in terms of the resilience, I think that so many young people actually now have these tools that they have for coping with really such a traumatic, unexpected time.

Thank you so much, Emma. Now, before we open it up to the Q&A, I'm just going to return to Dr. Rebecca Overton who did want to share a number of self-care tips that she says that she shares with her patients with the young people that come to her asking for help, Rebecca, perhaps you could share them with all of us, too.

Rebecca Overton

Thanks, Jess. And some of these have been touched on Kristin referred to them as a toolkit. I think of them as a prescription and they're the same as if you had asthma and you had a prescription you needed to use your puffers and the tips are, they require the young person to be really actively involved in taking some steps to help themselves feel better, but they also really need the support of their parents or carers to support them in living a healthy lifestyle and helping them re engage in activities and reconnect with friends. So, I recommend exercise I try and ask people to do 30 minutes a day of anything it could be stretches are walking, yoga, and running, swimming, trying to deal with family and friends so that you can start to reconnect again, particularly if you have withdrawn from those clothes too. And if you choose an activity you enjoy, you'll be more likely to do it regularly. A healthy diet so important, fresh, healthy food, avoiding fast food and junk food. getting enough iron in your diet is also really important. Sleep is critical. Young people need nine or nine and a half hours of sleep every night and I bet many of our young people watching tonight wouldn't get anywhere near that much. And in the handouts you'll receive, there's quite a lot of information to try and promote getting more sleep. I find it really useful if you can set yourself some goals, even just mini goals aiming for small, realistic goals which, as you complete them, it'll give you a sense of achievement and make you feel good about yourself. We've also mentioned getting into a routine, whether it's with your study or exercise, or eating regular meals, or going to bed at the same time every day getting up at the same time, it can make a huge difference to your sense of well-being connecting with others is so important. And when we connect with family and friends and pets, we actually have the release of a hormone in our body called oxytocin. And that is our warm, fuzzy love hormone. And that promotes a sense of well-being and it can help improve mood and anxiety and stress levels. We've also touched on trying to think of activities that make you feel joy and make you feel relaxed and happy. And it can be your hobbies or singing music, watching movies, dancing, cooking, photography, volunteering, going to church, if you if you do the things that bring you joy, it actually releases a brain chemical called serotonin. And that is a mood booster. We've already mentioned connecting with safe relationships with people that make you feel safe and secure, and loved and in relationships that are really built around trust and honesty, care, and respect. Finding anchors in your life, such as people are hobbies for exercise that can help you feel calm, and grounded, and stable. Getting back to nature can be really useful. For example, walking or running outside bushwalking. walking on the beach, being outside in nature, and being exposed to sunlight can certainly promote well-being and help you sleep. There are some great meditation apps that can be useful to help distract you from your worries and quieting your mind and help you sleep. And some examples there smiling, mind calm, and the headspace app can be really useful and even more effective if you use them regularly. We've kept talking tonight about how talking and asking for help is a sign of strength, and how important it is to ask for help if you are facing some difficulties. And I know that we all have bad days and bad weeks and days and weeks when we're feeling low, and that's part of normal human experience and part of life and it often passes. But if you're struggling and things aren't getting better, it is a sign of strength, as we said tonight, to put up your hand and ask for some help. And it can be a huge relief to say out loud, but I'm not myself at the moment. And I need some help to get through this or I'm not coping so well. And I need to learn some strategies to help me manage stress or anxiety. So tonight, like everyone, I'd like to encourage you to seek help talk to a trusted adult. And I realized that sometimes for young people, it can be really hard to talk to their parents, and they don't want to involve the school. And this is where saying a GP can be really useful. And a GP can offer support. They may offer medication if it can be helpful, and they can direct you to a psychologist or to a service such as headspace. They can suggest some online tools that can help you learn some strategies to manage how you're feeling so that you can feel better and find a pathway forward. And don't give up on the process. If the first GP or the first psychologist you see doesn't feel like the right fit or you don't feel comfortable opening up to them. Try again, try different GP try different psychologists. There are some great resources listed as well, for example, going to headspace where they've got counsellors and GPs who have an interest in young people's health. There are plenty telephone support services you can try you may be well aware of kids helpline or lifeline. There are some fantastic apps and some of the questions that came in have been around the cost of seeing a psychologist or the waiting lists and the lack of availability for appointments to see a psychologist. And this is where these apps can be really useful. They deliver effective treatments for conditions such as anxiety and depression. And there are some examples such as mood gym, and my compass or headgear. And they can be a fantastic, fantastic stepping stone to recovery, particularly if you're waiting to get in to see a psychologist. And again, lots of information that I've been mentioning here Jess will be available in the handouts that you'll receive.

Jessica Rowe

Thank you, Dr. Rebecca Overton, there's some really useful tips there. And of course, as Rebecca was saying, go into your GP is that first point of call to get that sort of mental health support that you need. Thank you so much, Rebecca. Now what we're going to do now we've got about half an hour left. We're going to have more of a Q&A with all of our panellists and I'd like to kick it off with Xavier, and one question that seems to come up or has been coming up time and time again this evening and in the questionnaire was Xavier, the impact that social media has on young people, we've often readily blame social media for all of the sorts of problems. What, what is your take on that?

Xavier Eales

I think it deserves that ready blame, like, I'm not going to shy away from that opinion. And I really think it does. Now that's not that's not so helpful, because there's not really a solution for you in that in that answer. But, um, but look, I actually deleted all of my socials In January, the only reason I got it again, was to market for this event. And I'll be straight back. But um, it was the best. What was it, you know, would have been eight months of my adult life, I mean, the amount of I'm sure everyone's done it, but go into the settings part. If you have an iPhone, go into settings, and go into screen time and look at how much time you spend per day, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok Snapchat, it's abhorrent.

It's a, it is a serious part of your life that's being taken away, and often not a good benefit. Now, that's not to say that there aren't some good things to come out of social media. There certainly are. But it is a like there are people who are employed there specifically to find where on the screen should certain items be placed, that will get you more emotionally and viscerally engaged, because there's a profit motive tied to that. And it just so happens that the things which make us most viscerally engaged are polarising opinions, that are often extremist and, and make us feel angry or intensely in agreement, right. And neither of those sides of the spectrum is going to be a good thing if you're inundated in it.

Now, I know. I know, I'm 23 I know that you need to have Facebook and Instagram at school, if you're a young person on this call you do right at school, I remember Facebook was a primary means of communication for students, you know, saying our we've got touch rugby on tomorrow, and things that are as essential as that. So, I get it. But what I would say is make a really concerted effort to minimise the amount of use, there are functions that are built into your phone to set limits. So, you can set a 15-minute limit per day on Instagram, and it'll tell you when you hit that, and it'll shut it off. That sort of stuff is really, really important. Because you get that time in your life back and it's not like it gets replaced by things that aren't productive, it often gets replaced by some really fruitful, meaningful connections that you are ironically missing out on.

Jessica Rowe

So, you find Xavier that your mental health improved by deleting those apps?

Xavier Eales

Drastically, drastically. I mean, a root cause of a lot of the mental struggle that I had, as a teenager was obsessive comparison of myself to other people, I'm even sort of doing it now to be honest, like, I'm looking at the participants number on this call, and I'm using it as a worm for my performance like I'm in a political debate. Well, if it drops, it's because I've said something wrong. Like it's that sort of, it's that wired into our brains. And the quicker we acknowledge that, the better.

Jessica Rowe

Such good words, but Kristen, I'll ask you, easier said than done, though, in the sense of as a parent, I will often say to my daughters, give me your phone, turn your phone off, you know, you've got to get off it. And often kids won't want to delete their apps or get off their phones. What would your advice be to parents to try and navigate their way through that?

Kristen Douglas

I think it's about education and allowing people to pay attention to how they're feeling. So sometimes what we do is we mindlessly scroll and do whatever we're doing on a screen and we're actually not paying any attention to how we're responding or how we're feeling whatever, and you just go down some rabbit warren, but I'd extend it beyond just our socials. I'd say like, you know, it's really easy to binge watch something on Netflix or, or whatever, for hours, and all of a sudden, you really feel like your moods changed. And I have noticed I get up my walk in the morning and rather than listening to nature, I might listen to a crime podcast and then all of a sudden, my total mood changes because of that. And it's about checking yourself and being aware about how you're responding, and I think Xavier is spot on. Five minutes, sure manageable. 10, 20, 30 minutes, it can, it can literally alter your mood. And I think it's just about teaching young people to pay attention and again, it's not just their socials, it's the news stuff like I cannot watch a press conference for the life of me because I think why I don't need the anger, the stress or whatever behind it. So I think, look for those triggers about how you're responding and actually talk to your kids and young people about how you get triggered by stuff or what increases your mood or, you know, great YouTube about puppies, that's fantastic gives you the serotonin and the Bec was talking about but you know, watching stuff that just drives that change in your mood, I think just be a bit more aware of it and, and pay attention to how much time you're losing on it basically.

Jessica Rowe

That's, that's such a good point, I think that you make that use ourselves as an example how we actually shift and change depending on what we're doing, because we are such sponges for our kids, they look at us, and sort of it's all well and good for us to say put your phone away, but I might be still looking at a whole lot of TikToks so I've got to model that behaviour. Emma, what I wanted to ask you, as well as that we are getting a number of questions about sort of gaming addiction, again, tapping in on sort of devices and phones and things, but especially during this time of lockdown, more and more young people are getting hooked on gaming, what are your thoughts?

Emma Barrett

Yeah, well, it's complex. And I think that's what the research is showing us too. There's been a lot of research done in this space. And, and, and it just basically echoes what Xavier and Kristen have already said that it's mixed in terms of the impacts on young people. Not surprisingly, long amount of time spent engaging with negative content imagery, or commentary, can have really serious impacts on young people's mental health in terms of anxiety, depression, alcohol, and other drug use. But we also have learned and learned, especially now that social media can really keep us connected during a pandemic syndrome, you know, unprecedented, but situations that we've just been through. So, acknowledging that though, to that we I'm not sure of the research that's come out yet, but looking at whether that has helped to keep connections at this time, I have no social connection. But I think also now that we're coming out, making sure that young people turn those connections to real life connections and connecting with their friends in real life now. Yeah.

Jessica Rowe

Ally, if you've got something you'd like to add on this social media debase.

Ally Nicolopoulos

I mean, yeah, and I take Xavier's point, I was really resonating actually, Xavier, when you said that you removed, removed yourself, and you felt so much better for it, I found the same thing. But then I also found that I missed every single event for about 14 months that was going on. And I kind of convinced myself that if people wanted to connect with me, they still had my phone number, and they still, you know, able to reach me in a certain way. And I found that coming off of it, those real-life connections actually became so important, I think, I struggled to feel how to say how we might have young people might have remained connected without it, though, given the times that we that we've been in, you know, and so I actually think that there's, there's too much of anything is not good, right, Jess. And so, I think that social media, in terms of the connection that Xavier has spoken about, and that I continually speak about, it actually serves as a form of connection. I just think that when we go back to the addiction, addiction, you know, we can be become addicted to anything. And I think that social media can also become addictive, and we need to really look at it, maybe more of through a lens of as a connection source rather than a validation source. And I think that that might be the narrative that if we push that narrative with social media, that it's about connection and not about, you know, the kind of person that you are given what's happening on your social media, then it can actually be quite helpful for young people.

Jessica Rowe

I like that approach. I think that that's a good positive way, I think, to end that that talk that we're doing on social media. What Another thing I want to pick up on, that it's coming through in the Q&A is, you know, with a lot of us coming out of lockdown with young people, you know, there's that sense of feeling overwhelmed, but also then now, there's this chance to reengage socially and then sort of get out in the wider world. The issues of drinking, taking drugs, how I suppose as both from a young person's perspective and a parent, how do we manage that? Kristen, I'll start with you.

Kristen Douglas

Sorry, Jess, I just put in the chat box for parents. Just to recap on that social media stuff. There's a fantastic partner that we use across the country, for parents, young people in schools, that a Safety Commission, so they're their website. It's got some great resources, great tools, great tips, great little videos, but also has a team that supports you if you're worried about bullying or abuse online and that sort of, so I just wanted to put that in. In terms of the question, you're asking About, it's a little bit like we've all been locked up in a bit of a cage. And you know those animals, when you swing the door open, you expect them to bolt out of the cage. I feel like we're all tentatively going to come out. And I think this is this pro long change to routine, we've kind of got in certain habits and they're a little bit different, we're going to have to slowly creep back into our life. And I know, talk to young people and like, I cannot wait for lockdown in in Melbourne, I'm going to do this seminar party, this bla bla bla. And I'm like, oh, and other people are a bit more tentative. So, I think, take your time coming back. And it's like, it's been a slow journey into COVID, we need to take it a bit slower as we were coming out and re normalising some of that stuff. And just one last thing about the social media, whatever, we're actually I think, physically burning less energy. At the moment, we're less outside, we're less in the world, we're not using the same amount of energy all day. So, we're not as tired I think we're going so pay attention to sleep, get out and burn a heap of energy. So, by the time you get to bedtime, you are quite tired. And you know, that stabilizes everything. So, I guess, take your time and find things that are fun, but feel safe and help you regulate these two different things we talk about to families and that's coping strategies and maladaptive coping strategies. coping strategies are good things to choose, you know, eating well sleeping, blah, blah, blah, maladaptive coping strategies, other crap options, drinking more gambling, more socializing more, blah, blah, you've got to have a blend now we're all gonna use a few unhelpful strategies. And you know, sometimes a lot, what did I do that, and then I think it's finding the good strategies, and limiting the maladaptive coping strategies like the negative stuff and checking your head noise right now a lot of people have really busy head noise and stuff going on, check yourself, if you really whizzed up and got a lot of internal dialogue going on. It might be worth trying to find things that are helping you calm down and find a safe space internally, basically,

Jessica Rowe

That's so good. And even I mean, I'm learning I always learned so much during these forums just about taking that time to check in with how you are feeling. Xavier, I'd like to hear from you sort of as a young person, what your advice or thoughts might be for people, young people sort of getting back out into the wider world.

Xavier Eales

Yeah, sure. Just, I mean, I think that, like, a lot, you got to remember that for a young person, the, you know, two years of being locked down represents a much greater proportion of their life, right. So, it is more normal, this lockdown environment for a young person than it is for someone who's 60, right. Because if it's been a more formative stage of their life, and for a larger portion of their life, so I think the whole, you know, tentative re-emergence into the normal world is, is really prevalent for a lot of young people and less so than we probably think, because we probably say the Freedom Day, headlines of kids going to clubs, the second they can and, and, and, you know, the loud ones are always going to be on social media and on your TV screens. And you might forget that, that a lot aren't like that. I think my, I probably want to direct my advice to young people, because that's who I can really speak to. And that would be that. You know, nothing fundamentally is really changed. It's just that it's just the behaviour of the people around you. But ultimately, if you've found behaviours that work for you, there's nothing that compels you to stop that. I mean, sure, you might have to go into the classroom. You know, you might have to go to your job in person when you didn't previously have to, but these new habits that you've picked up and might be positive, and the silver linings of COVID keep them you know, and that's one of the benefits of having lived through this. This, this time in our lives is that we've picked up a lot of great habits, some bad ones, but a lot of great habits and we should pick take the good ones.

Jessica Rowe

That's it. Thank you so much, Xavier. Now I've got a question here from a parent, saying as a parent, how do you support a young person refusing to get help, to not take medication? And then the sorts of consequences with not managing school and relationships? You know, they're really digging their heels in saying no, I don't want to go and see a counsellor. Ally, what sort of advice would you give to this parent?

Ally Nicolopoulos

Yeah, look, I think it's a really good question. And I think it's one that comes up a fair bit. I think First, so I noticed Jess that you said that they don't want to go and see a counsellor, there are a lot of different options are in a really privileged position now compared to even when I was at school or when I was in my adolescence that there are a lot of different options. So even now, especially in COVID, there's telehealth. So, it doesn't have to be in person, you know, I feel like it's maybe giving an array of options of what is available rather than I feel like young people fixate on what health means. And I think we, as adults, we need to not necessarily load the language of health around mental illness or depression or anxiety or suicide. Um, something I found really helpful is to first yourself as a parent, as an adult, understand how very similar the concepts of mental and physical health are, and then be able to explain this to a young person who might be resistant to get help for their mental health. So, what I mean by this is, every single person as a human being has a body has a brain, the brain is just as susceptible to injury as the bodies. And if we normalise that, you know, holistic health concept, that it's not just about our body, but it's about our brain, it makes sense that a young person can then you know, talk about the fact that they've cried every night for the past two weeks after school and don't know why as freely as they will the hand injury that just keeps progressively getting worse from a basketball game two weeks ago, and I think, you know, normalising that conversation and, and trying to stay away from that loaded 'we're going to do we're going to get help' and putting it even in a way that allows that young person to control the narrative offer to go with them, offer to ask, ask them what it is that they need, what it is that they need, in that moment, do they need you to drop them off to a place, let them go and do what they need to do be there to pick them up, and then never discuss it again, you know, and give them have allowed them to control the narrative of what that might look like for them, and then work with that work with the little information that they might give you to then maybe be able to progress to what the Help is that they might they might need in that moment. I hope that answers your question.

Jessica Rowe

Oh, it does. A Kristen, have you got something you'd like to add to that as well?

Kristen Douglas

I just want to double down on Ally's thing like going to talk one to one to a counsellor is one of a whole suite of things you can do like young person can dial into an online forum like this. And we've got through eheadspace and through headspace peer moderated chat forums where it's young people talking about a certain topic on a certain night. So you can do that feels a bit less confronting. I think also we have to explain what it is to go to one of these appointments like it might feel a bit weird. Like I think we all know what it's like to go to the hairdresser. And while we're off to the hairdresser's we kind of understand that you're sitting in a chair and somebody is going to touch your head, and then everything will be alright might get a champagne if you're lucky. But I think when we, when we say to a young person, we want you to go and see a counsellor, you know what I wouldn't have wanted to either in my teens, because I just would not have known what to expect. And I think it's like, do you want to go and have a coffee with someone and talk about how you feeling blah, blah, it's going to look like this, it's going to be you know, in this room, it's going to be this colour? Do you want to talk to a young guy or a young girl and I think just maybe making it a bit less scary sometimes, and it's okay, if you can't get them there, it's okay for you to go and seek help. And you to get tips and you to do that session with somebody to get some strategies. And that's okay, too. That's a good halfway measure.

Jessica Rowe

And as parents, we need that because Dr. Rebecca Overton. And I know that you've got some advice that you'd like to give to parents and carers who are supporting young people.

Rebecca Overton

And some of it we have already covered, Jess, I think that some of the really important messages are to remind the young people that they're not alone, that you're there for them and that you will get through this together and that the crisis will pass. I think that's what's so important that help is available and it's treatable. So, we've talked at length tonight about, you know, promoting healthy lifestyle with sleep and diet and exercise. For adults, some food parents and carers going for a walk or a drive together with the young person. Being shoulder to shoulder is much less confronting than perhaps talking face to face. Prioritising family meals, I know a lot of people have very hectic, chaotic lives, and they don't sit together to eat it as a family. And I think if you take away the TV and no phones at the table, and you really try and connect, it can make a huge difference to the team where they feel valued. If they can start to talk about the challenges in their day, getting your team involved, getting back into activities that perhaps they used to do before they became very anxious or depressed. Promoting volunteerism because doing things for other people does help boost your mood. So, if you find things they're interested in, encouraging them to do that that can be useful. I always find that the kids who do best are the kids where the parents or their carers are really on board and it is so important for parents to take action, such as talking to their child's school, or facilitating the child, seeing a GP or seeing a psychologist, parents must be on board. And it's so important that parents do keep connecting with their teens and keep encouraging them to talk, they may not want to talk now, they may not want to see a counsellor now, but just keep checking in keeping encouraging them to open up and you find that you might find an opportunity where a window opens, and they're ready to talk. And you need to be fully present and not distracted, so that you can be there for them and do your best to support them in their recovery from their mental health challenges.

Jessica Rowe

Oh, useful stuff there, Rebecca. And that sense of I think being present is so important. And I know as a parent, it can be very difficult when you've got a whole lot of other things going on to actually be there in the moment and to listen, but I'm learning and hopefully I'm getting better. Now, Emma Is there anything you would like to add as well, to this discussion that we're having?

Emma Barrett

No, I mean, I feel like it's been covered. And I was thinking a Kristen covered at the self-care of that as parents that we need to keep an eye on. And, and, of course, I've learned some tips about how to care for our young people, too. And just to your point, just then about forgetting to do these things ourselves, I was preparing for this panel this afternoon, and my six year old came into the room and asked me what I was doing. And I explained what it was very quickly in the hopes that he would just kind of shuffle off and he stood for a moment. And he reflected, and then it opened up this whole conversation about his Well, he said, what, what kids might be worried about when it comes to going back to kindy. And he was talking about other kids. But it made sense to me that he was talking about his own, you know, his own anxieties and worries. And so, I think that was a reminder to me that, you know, the importance of asking and having those conversations.

Jessica Rowe

But isn't that beautiful? To think that? And what sort of things was he saying though?

Emma Barrett

Yeah, so he, what he was thinking about other kids, I guess, being worried about, I just, you know, he's sick. So, it's about, you know, getting, is he going to have the school uniform, ready, and just basic things like that. And, yeah, but it was just, it just made me realise that he's obviously got some concerns and worries that I hadn't yet asked him about. So, a bit of practicing what I preach, I think.

Jessica Rowe

And I think too, as well, for many of the parents who are listening tonight, the fact that you have tuned in, turned up logged on and listening is to me an enormous sign that you are doing such an amazing job, because it is hard. Not being a parent, but it is hard, especially teenagers. I adore my daughters, but it is hard. So, I think we need to be gentle on ourselves as well. And to say we are doing all we can and by turning up, as I said listening to tonight, I mean, you're so much bear, what I'd like to do in closing is to go back round our panel, and to ask each of you about a sort of final message of hope. When Maree opened the forum earlier, she was talking about the importance of hope. And I think hope is such a wonderful word. And Xavier, if I could start with you, what would be sort of a message of hope that you would have for other young people at the moment,

Xavier Eales

I think, but I'm just I'm here, I'm on this call. That's pretty telling, right? Like I was, I mean, I'm even looking at this list of participants now. And there's a few like anonymous people here. And I'm sort of thinking to myself, that's exactly what I would have done when I was 16. And I was struggling is I would have gone on to something like this anonymously and snooped. And then thought that that was my cry for help. And it was would have been hugely beneficial to listening to something like this, but I guess I'll want to speak to those people if they're there. And if they're on this call, is that why lived experiences evidence that it gets better, gets a lot better. And, and one of my favourite quotes and it's a quote that I referenced in that speech that kicked all this off, is that 'life is a tragedy when seen close up, but a comedy in a long shot', which is a Charlie Chaplin quote, which I think is I still think about that a lot, which is that when you're in it, and in the heat of it, which is especially so and pertinent in your teenage years, and old youth to be frank, when you've got all the variables of stressful exams and high school social pressures, and then you come out of high school, what degree am I going to do? Am I going to do a degree, what job am I going to get etc, etc. That's that is a cocktail of stress and it gets better, it gets a lot better not to sensationalize it. But I think that working through a mental health problem your own or helping someone else through theirs is incorrect. audibly cathartic, and I often find the people who have worked through their own mental health problems or help someone else through it. Have a have a mental health intelligence that is superior, and you learn a hell of a lot from it and, and you come out of it a better skilled and more mature adult. So, you've got a lot to look forward to. That would be my closing message.

Jessica Rowe

Oh, you are spot on. I wish I could give you a hug. I just think you are fabulous. Ally, what about you

Ally Nicolopoulos

I keep losing the unmute button. I'm so sorry Jess I found it. I just want to first acknowledge around COVID that the last couple of years have, again, talking to the young people, the last couple of years have not been easy for you guys, your education is being disrupted, you can separate it from friends and family, you might have lost a job not being able to play sport, even just felt really confused about the state of the world. But you survived it. And you'll be able to look back until your kids one day that you made it as a kid through these super tough times. And while we are in a transitory phase, I feel like it's going to be such a great opportunity for young people to take the reins in the direction that we go. Yes. So, my work I've had a lot of young people telling me pre pandemic, even that they don't feel like they have a voice in things that really matter to them. And it's actually been something that's caused them a lot of distress. And they feel that because they're young adults, just don't listen, don't take them seriously don't care for what they have to say. But we're in a completely different place. Now. I think we need to think of this COVID situation as a restart on the world. Because effectively it is and know that for the young people again, talking to you. This is your opportunity to make your voices heard. I promise you there are a lot of adults out here; you know that we need you to tell us what's going on for you in order to make positive and effective change. You're the voices that matter. You're the voices that need to be heard. Please do not be afraid to speak up. Thanks, Jess.

Jessica Rowe

Thank you. And yes, that is right. I learned so much from my kids every day they teach me every day. Emma, what are your words of hope?

Emma Barrett

Yeah, so I'll borrow from you, Xavier, if that's all right, I thought this message was very powerful to keep the good habits. I think right now is the perfect time to reflect on some of the good habits we may have developed and some of the benefits we might be having at this time and then making a concerted effort to hold on to those for as long as we can.

Jessica Rowe

Indeed, Kristen, what about you?

Kristen Douglas

Thanks, Jess. In this Brene Brown podcast I was listening to the other day, I thought it was fantastic to talk about the fact that COVID is kind of reveal, it's pulled back the curtain of this illusion that adults have all of their crap together. We don't, we're making this up as we go along young people. And it's kind of this beautiful, you know, the reality of life has been revealed. So, I think it's great. I really want to reinforce the message of, of Xavier and Ally around, just keep plugging along. Like it's hard to take perspective on life when you're drawing on 15 years of experience, versus 60 years of experience. And I think keep plugging along. And also, to Xavier's point around developing your emotional literacy or your EQ, your emotional intelligence, I feel like this is the most powerful skill young people can get. So, knowing how you feel being able to talk about how you feel, being able to check on others about how they're feeling. I feel like that's a ridiculously important superpower that kids can develop young people can develop and actually will take you so far in life that EQ stuff. And Jess, I wanted just to flash up two pictures because I learned through imagery. And the moderator is going to freak out because I'm sharing screen. It's okay. Here or flash this up. I love. Can you see what can you see? Can you see a picture of a battery?

Jessica Rowe

Yes, great.

Kristen Douglas

I love using this image because all of tonight is we've been talking about what gets you in the green and keeps you in the green and charged. And there's also been components of tonight about what are the things that kind of get you in the red. And how do we get from the red back to the green. It's not super sophisticated stuff, but it's just a really good image to understand. If you're worried someone's getting towards the red. What am I going to do? What am I going to say? If I'm worried I'm getting towards the red. How do I tell? Well, I'm walking around calls and I know that persons irritating me more than normal. I'm probably getting towards the red. So be aware of when you're getting to the red and when other people around you're getting to the red and how to get back to the grain. And the next thing I would say and I'm totally stealing alleys beautiful act. Look I made a slide Ally there's 'NIP it in the bud' which is exactly the same ACT. Both are three steps. So, you can either remember 'NIP it in the bud' or ACT. NIP it in the bud is. Hey, I've noticed you're a bit wobbly Bec? Asking what what's going on for you? How are things and then providing a hug, providing GP number, providing whatever. ACT exactly the same thing acknowledge-care-talk. So, if you can take a mental image or even a phone shot of that, just a simple three step framework on how to check in with someone. so 'NIP it in the bud', or 'ACT'.

Jessica Rowe

Mmm, Great. I love these sort of user friendly, straightforward tips. Now, Rebecca will finish with you with what how would you like to say some words of hope.

Rebecca Overton

I would just like to say to anyone who's struggling, just if you are struggling, please speak up, talk to a friend, talk to a trusted adult, go and see your GP to get some help with the issues that you're facing at the moment and just talk to someone there is always hope, no matter how bad you're feeling, now, things will get better, the crisis will pass. But you do need some support and some treatment to get through this. And I encourage everyone to remember that they are deeply loved and cared for and they're not alone. Help is available, get support, and you will feel better. And I encourage young people to know and say to themselves often that you are important, you are loved, you are needed, you are worth while you are enough. And it's okay to have good days and bad days. And it's okay to cry about everything and nothing. And it's okay to feel frustrated and sad and anxious and scared. And it's okay to feel and sometimes we also just need to learn how to sit with our feelings. And that's okay, too. And I think for those that are going through struggles, one day, you'll look back on all the progress you made. And you'll be so glad that you persisted and that you didn't give up. And one last slide is just that if anything we've discussed today causes any distress or concern. Please do talk to someone and remember that you can always call lifeline.

Jessica Rowe

Thank you so much, Rebecca. And that notion of you are enough is something that I hold very dear to my heart. I think it is so important for all of us to know, each and every one of us is enough. Can I please thank all of our remarkable panellists who have given their time, their expertise, their wisdom to us this evening. Thank you to each and every one of you. You've I've learned so much. It's just been wonderful. Of course, we couldn't get to all of your questions. I'm sorry, just because of time. It's difficult to cover each and every question. But please know that help is available. And there's those help lines that we mentioned, as well. We are recording this so that link will become available. And we will send that through to your email. And as well, we are collating those tips and some of those facts that we got tonight. And they will also be emailed to you because we just want to make sure that no one feels alone or misunderstood or not heard after tonight to please know that help is available, there is always a way through as well there is going to be a short survey that's going to be popping up in your browser, we'd love you to fill that out. So, we can do this again and make sure that we're doing it as well as we possibly can for you and giving you the support and the answers and the help that you need. Huge thank you again to our panellists to each and every one of you for joining us. I've had the best evening so much love to you all being virtual hugs. And Let's all say were enough, go gently as we step out into that wider world you are all beautiful, remarkable, glorious, flawed human beings and that's what makes you so very special. Good night and we will see you soon. I don't know if you meant to wave on zooms but I always like to wave and say goodbye. See you later everyone. Bye.

 

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